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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Gaia's Kitchen and The Use-It-All Cookbook




I'm going to start off by saying that vegetarian food is not boring, well at least not if you make it yourself.
It is not uncommon for me to eat at least three meat-free meals each week and that has nothing to do with principles, morals, ethics or the like, but because meat can be expensive and I don't always want it.
It is possible to have a vegetarian dish and not miss meat at all.

Gaia's Kitchen is all about wholesome natural food, after all that is what food should be about, I know I'd rather avoid unnecessary additives and suspect ingredients.
Most people immediately think of lentils when vegetarian food is mentioned, they are right of course, but lentils are not bland or insipid if they are cooked with care and a smattering of herbs and spices.

From the minds and kitchens of Schumacher College in Dartington,
Gaia's Kitchen teaches us about the importance of respecting the Earth and ourselves through our choice of food. Some might think of this as a hippy ideal, but issues concerning ecology and sustainability could not be more important in this day and age.

The intention of the recipes is to feed lots of hungry people –
the quantities for some are huge and all of the dishes include a version to allow the cook to scale up the ingredients to serve around 40 people!
Well it does state on the cover that they are for family and community.
As I was cooking just for two, I reduced the amounts accordingly, without detriment to the final result.

I made two recipes, the Spinach & Mushroom Plait (p.71) and Marilyn's Vegan Chocolate Cake (p.186). Both recipes were easy to follow and liked the diagrams to show you exactly how to create the pastry plait work.

Spinach & Mushroom Plait

The Spinach & Mushroom Plait was rich, intense and mushroomy,
the mushrooms are cooked down quite a lot which magnifies their flavour. The addition of cheddar cheese gave it an agreeable savouriness.

Marylin's Vegan Chocolate Cake

The chocolate cake was a revelation, being vegan, it can't contain any dairy products, so that meant no butter or eggs. The fat is replaced with vegetable oil, but believe it or not, it is possible to make a cake without eggs. The texture was dense but appropriate for a chocolate cake. My only comment would be that it should have more cocoa as it wasn't quite chocolatey enough for me.

This is a good book for those looking for more vegetarian options to
add to their repertoire and many of the dishes would hold up well at a dinner party.

The second book, The Use-It-All Cookbook is one I feel everyone should own. These days, so much food is wasted, either because we think it has gone off, when it really hasn't, or we don't know what to do with left-overs or the last carrot in the veg trolley.
With hints and tips on planning, storage, reheating, to the mysteries of the use-by date, the book could save you money and feed you well.
It is filled with recipes from the basics to savoury to sweet and is simple
to use when looking for something to use up like cold roast chicken or mashed potato.
Although the book encourages frugality it is far from austere in terms of cuisine. Good family cooking at its best.

Gaia's Kitchen by Julia Ponsonby is published by Green Books
The Use-It-All Cookbook by Bish Muir is published by Green Books

Order yours now

Food photos: ©childsdesign 2010

Books kindly supplied by Green Books

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